What is a brief summary of Chapter 11 of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter 11 is part of Helen Keller's description of entering fully into normal life and society after Miss Sullivan taught her how to communicate. Keller, in this chapter, recounts enjoying to the utmost a fall holiday at her family's summer cottage, called Fern Quarry. She was able now to engage in life joyfully, a vivid contrast to her angry, alienated existence of tantrums and frustrations as a child shut up inside herself and unable to convey her thoughts or desires.

What is striking about this rustic mountain vacation is how fully Keller was able to participate in it. She didn't let her handicaps hold her back.

She describes the sensory experiences she could be part of, such as being woken by the smell of coffee in the morning or the odor of persimmons in the woods, which she loved. She was able to "hear" the stories the men told, no doubt through Miss Sullivan, so had the feeling of being a full participant in life around the campfire. She enjoyed hiking in the woods, and she even got to ride a horse. One would think that a blind and deaf child would be discouraged from horseback riding because of the risks, but Miss Sullivan let it happen. Miss Sullivan would even sometimes let Helen's horse's bridle go when it was safe to do so, so that Helen could fully experience being on horseback.

Helen also had a scary experience when she and her party had to scramble to avoid being hit by a train.

All of this made the world come alive to her. As she writes:

It seems to have been the beginning of everything. The treasures of a new, beautiful world were laid at my feet, and I took in pleasure and information at every turn. I lived myself into all things.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Most of Chapter 11 in The Story of My Life was about Helen's time spent with her family and Miss Sullivan in their mountain cottage.

At the beginning of the chapter, Helen reflected on her time spent in the North.  She had wonderful memories, and kept very busy during her time there.  She also met many new people, some of whom communicated with her using the manual alphabet.

Helen spent the autumn after she returned home with her family in their cottage.  The cottage was located in the mountains about fifteen miles from their home in Tuscumbia, Alabama.  It was near an abandoned quarry, and train tracks ran nearby.  

While there, Helen enjoyed exploring the forest.  She loved the stream, the trees, the flowers, and many other aspects of nature there.  She spent time outdoors with Miss Sullivan and her sister, Mildred.  Visitors came and told stories.  A hunting party left from the cottage, and returned later with enough meat for a large feast.

Helen, her sister, and her cousins loved the train.  Helen described the excitement of her sister and the other children when they heard the train blow its whistle:

Sometimes a terrific whistle brought us to the steps, and Mildred told me in great excitement that a cow or a horse had strayed on the track (Chapter XI).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial